Let’s summarize what hygiene rules we must observe, in order to protect ourselves (and the people around us) from the spread of COVID-19.

As there are currently no vaccines available and drugs are still being evaluated and/or tested, the best thing to do is to prevent infection in the first place.

How does this virus spread?

  • It’s transmitted from person-to-person, and therefore it’s good to observe a distance of at least one meter with those close to us; even better is four meters, if possible.
  • It’s transmitted through droplets of saliva or mucus that spread via sneezing or coughing.
  • These droplets may be directly inhaled or deposited on the mouth of a person we’re physically close to, or they may settle on surfaces. If you touch the surfaces within a certain time period and then put your hands in your mouth or nose, you will risk contracting the infection.

How can I really protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water; at least for 20 seconds — and with more care if you’re in public places where you’re (obviously) more likely to be in a less hygienic environment. For example, in the bathrooms of the highway/freeway service station (for business travelers) or within supermarkets. It’s recommended that you wash your hands, even when you sneeze, because we may be asymptomatic — but this doesn’t mean that we can’t transmit the virus to people within close physical proximity.
  • If you don’t have soap and water, you can use disinfectant. But if you don’t have it, then you can use a detergent containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with anything, it’s better not to touch your face with your hands.
  • Avoid contact with infected people. If you can’t do without this (because they’re a family member that you have to look after, or with whom you simply share living spaces), have the sick person wear a mask and put it on yourself; better if it’s an FFP2 or FFP3 mask. Wear gloves as well; latex ones that you can find in grocery stores or pharmacies are fine, as they don’t have to be sterile — but you have to change them often, in order to avoid spreading the virus on the surfaces around you.
  • Always, in case you have to take care of people infected with COVID-19, it’s highly advisable to ventilate the room frequently (every two hours, in the daytime) and wash sheets and pillowcases at temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius. The sheets should not be shaken before putting them in the washing machine, in order to avoid the dispersion of the coronavirus; the same goes for towels and cloth napkins.

But what if we become infected?

Of course, these rules apply if the infection is not such that we need hospitalization.

  • We stay at home and follow the Doctor’s advice for treatment.
  • We try as much as possible to isolate ourselves at home from other family members.
  • We wear a mask and gloves when we move around in common areas.
  • We often wash the surfaces around us with alcohol or disinfectant. Even if we don’t touch the sneeze-or-cough-droplets, they may settle even two meters away.

Even if we think we’re not infected with COVID-19, it’s just good practice to sneeze or cough into a disposable handkerchief (which must then be thrown in the trash) and then wash your hands. If you don’t have a handkerchief or don’t have time to take one with you, then it’s highly advisable to sneeze or cough in the upper-sleeve, so as not to contaminate your hands.

It’s not necessary to cover your face with a mask (unless you’re taking care of a sick person); it’s strongly recommended only for people who are infected.

Unfortunately, the availability of masks is limited, and priority should be given to people who are infected — in addition to healthcare professionals.

This post is also available in: Italiano


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